Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Wine investment fraudster Spyros Constantinos guilty on all 10 Charges

Serial fraudster Spyros faces jail

43-year old Spyros Constantinos has been found guilty at the Old Bailey (London) of defrauding clients who were persuaded to invest in wine by this smooth tongued salesman. Constantinos faced ten counts that included running a fraudulent business, intent to defraud and acting as a company director while disqualified.

The guilty verdicts on all ten counts come at the end of a three-week trial. The case was bought by Tower Hamlets Trading Standards.

Their barrister Pauline Thompson QC told the court that Constantinos had stolen £1 million from investors. Instead of buying wine he spent the money on holidays including a trip to New York and other luxuries.

One of Constantinos's ploys was to offer a guaranteed return on wine after a year.  The rate of return varied from 8.9% to an astonishing 50%

The jury heard a sad litany from investors who bought wine and were fobbed off with endless unfulfilled promises of cheques in the post. Frustrated investors got repeated promises of cheques at the end of the month, while receiving further wine investment offers. Instead getting their money it was moved into accounts for Constantinos’ personal use.

Michael Phelps, md of EHD bonded warehouse, where Constantinos stored what wine he did buy, told the court that he had never seen documents supposedly from EHD that were sent to investors. This included one that guaranteed that wine was in EHD’s care. 

Following the collapse the Bordeaux Wine Consultants Ltd, Constantinos’ first wine investment company, he was banned from being a UK company director from 2008 to 2017. However, he acted as company director for the Premier Bordeaux Wine Company and Classic Bordeaux Wines, which was based in Marbella.    

Underlining his intent to defraud and common to other fraudsters and those involved in telesales scams, Constantinos used a series of false names when dealing with his clients or potential clients. False names used by Constantinos included Andrew Miles and Stephen Williams. (NB: Stephen Williams was an alias that Constantinos chose. There was no connection whatever with Stephen Williams of the long established Antique Wine Company as this post on investdrinks in March 2013 makes absolutely clear:

Sentencing is to follow in some 28 days. I hope Constantinos will get a considerable prison sentence, especially as he continued to run his fraudulent schemes despite being banned as a director and having given undertakings at the time of his ban.  

Congratulations to Tower Hamlets Trading Standards for bringing this case, to Pauline Thompson QC and her team for getting the result and to the jury for not being conned by Spyros. Tower Hamlets Trading Standards already have good form here having brought the £35 million land banking case that would have involved Andy 'Russian brides' Dunne if the hard man hadn't fled to Northern Cyprus.

Spyros should see prison as a blessing – a good opportunity to lose some weight. 

Like other convicted drinks investment fraudsters, Spyros chose to plead not guilty and stand trial despite the evidence against him provided by his gulled clients. You would have thought Spyros would have seen that pleading guilty in the hope of receiving a shorter sentence might have been a sensible investment. Evidently not!


Jim's Loire said...

Comment from Luc Charlier:

In short, I was questioning the need (and usefulness) of jail for such offenders.
Of course, it is a punishment (well deserved) but is it what society needs?
It won't help reimbursement of the victims (to the contrary), they are likely to "meet" other crooks as well ...
Would it not be better to make sure they will NEVER run a business again, nor be employed as a salesman, as a manager and so on?

Just asking. I'm not sure myself.

For the same token, I'm against capital penalty as well, whatever the crime. But this is another kettle of fish.

Friendly yours,


Jim's Loire said...

Luc. We are certainly both against capital punishment. Surely it is a broader question – does prison do any good and serve a useful purpose. As well as protecting the community, prison is also viewed as a deterrent. Will a spell in prison reform Spyros – possibly?

Although Spyros hasn't attacked anyone physically he has stolen people's life savings – a long-term mugging that may well effect the living standards of his victims for the rest of their lives. Does Spyros deserve to be deprived of his freedom for a number of years for this crime? If Spyros had burgled homes and stolen this money or equivalent valuables would you still question a prison sentence? Is this a question of jailing 'blue collar' criminals while sparing 'white collar' ones?

Spyros had already been banned from being a company director from 2008 to 2017 – nine years. It made no difference he continued to defraud people, so how is your proposed punishment going to be effective this time?

Luc Charlier said...

I was just questioning. I don't believe prison will deter such people from relapsing. It should be reserved - in my eyes - to those representing a physical danger for others, i.e. mainly criminals who have used real violence. For the rest, there should be a legal way to definitely prevent them to continue defrauding others, apart from the "reparation" due to past victims. One way would be to forbid them FOREVER access to trade, or commercial professions in a broader sense. They should still be able to WORK, of course, but not at any level of financial responsibility. Jim, I'm not a lawyer. Just as you are, I'm shocked to see that this kind of people still can go on. I'm NOT trying to minimize his guilt, far from that.
Thank you for your reply.

Anonymous said...

Spyros has been sentenced to 8 years in prison

Jim's Loire said...

Anon. Thanks. Will be posting very shortly – was holding off until my news item for DEcanter was up. Tweeted about it yesterday. Delighted that he got eight years – an example to other fraudsters.

Anonymous said...

How can it be right that causing death by reckless driving you only get 4 years but this guy gets 8 years for stealing just 1 million over 10 years. The sentencing system is mad!

Jim's Loire said...

Anon. I think the Spyros sentence is right. It included running a company while banned from being a UK director. Although I don't know the facts of the reckless driving case the sentence I agree does look low.